Midwives deal with three births at once, says expert

Midwives are “overworked and overstretched”, sometimes caring for three women in labour at the same time, according an expert.

Since 2001 there has been a 16 per cent rise in birthrates yet there are vacancies for midwives in every part of the country, according to the Royal College of Midwives.

The labour Government has pledged 3,400 extra full-time jobs (4,000 including part-time workers), but research for the Darzi review into the NHS shows a shortage of 4,288 midwives.

The shortfall is estimated after comparing it with the NHS “gold standard” for safer childbirth, which demands one midwife per 28 births.

London has the worst shortages with 1,150 more midwives needed to meet a 20 per cent rise in the birthrate.

Louise Silverton, deputy general secretary at the RCM, said: “Women keep hearing about Government policy statements, such as one-to-one care from a midwife, but they are not getting that sort of treatment in many areas.

“Our members are telling us that they are overworked and overstretched and are running between beds dealing with, in some cases, three women at once.”

The RCM added funding for maternity services has been cut by £55 million.

Miss Silverton added: “The maternity services have long been described as a postcode lottery – but our regional NHS responses paint a shocking picture of just how loaded that lottery for maternity care is.”

By next year ministers have promised women will be able to choose whether to have their child in hospital, at home or in a midwife-led birth centre.

The Government has promised £330 million of extra funding for maternity services over three years.

But, according to Miss Silverton, research shows nine out of 10 maternity units do not know where their share of the £330 million had gone, and it could have been diverted into other services.

She said: “It is not enough for the Government to say it has put money into maternity services, but then fail to make sure the money actually goes where it is supposed to.”


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